PADUCAH, Ky. (AP)—Despite hushed whispers, the tapping of nervous feet, the clicking of iPhone cameras, all was silent for West Kentucky Community & Technical College’s men’s basketball coach Michael Chumbler on Feb. 27 as he stood to meet two complete strangers in the campus gymnasium.
The three men were already connected, however, by one common factor, the life of 20-year-old Kam Chumbler, Michael’s son who passed away last May. Michael was meeting for the first time the men who are living because of his son’s organ donations.
“I can feel Kam here,” Michael Chumbler said, looking toward Paul Mattingly, the recipient of Kam’s lungs. “When I stood to hug him, his lungs were breathing, in and out. I could feel them.”
A few weeks ago, Chumbler mailed personally written letters to each transplant recipient, asking them to attend a basketball game being played in Kam’s honor so he could see the lives his son saved.
“I couldn’t not come. It has all come full circle,” Mattingly said. “We lost our son, an organ donor, in 2008, so on the way down to the hospital to get the transplant I knew what someone was going through. It just eats your heart when you lose someone. So for Kam’s sake, I block that out and grab life a lot harder.”